Pharmacies beat out supermarkets on open-seller price: Choice

pharmacies better value: $20 note, pills, stethoscope

Pharmacies offer overall better prices on open-selling medicines, according to a new report from Choice – as well as better customer service.

Choice compared the prices of common medicines available in supermarkets, including painkillers, sinus medication, cough, cold and flu medicines, hayfever treatments, indigestion remedies, anti-diarrhoeals and low-dose aspirin to the drugs’ prices in pharmacies.

“In general, pharmacies equalled or beat supermarkets on price when comparing brand for brand, and with larger pack sizes available in pharmacies, the price per dose was even cheaper,” wrote author Karina Bray, Choice’s senior content producer – health.

Online and big-box discount pharmacies tended to offer better prices than smaller pharmacies, the report says.

“For the occasional dose of painkiller, antihistamine or antidiarrhoeal, when you’re not bothered about spending a little more, supermarkets offer the convenience of one-stop shopping and often extended hours,” says Choice.

The report highlights that generics offer greater savings compared to the brands sold in supermarkets, with the exception of generic ibuprofen, which was cheaper in supermarkets.

“More effective active ingredients, stronger doses, and a broader range of medicines for many conditions are available in pharmacies,” the report says.

“Finally, while we weren’t investigating customer service issues, we noted that in the pharmacies we went to, we were often offered assistance, usually by more than one person.

“There may be better options than the specific medication you’re considering, so it’s worth asking for advice.”

The report found that:

  • Panadol 20s were often, but not always, cheaper in supermarkets, but the larger pack sizes in pharmacy made it a more economic choice. Herron paracetamol tended to be cheaper in supermarkets, with the exception of the pharmacy-only 60 pack.
  • Supermarket generic paracetamol was “a lot cheaper than Panadol” but Choice found a pack of 100 Panamax for less than $2 in pharmacy was one of the cheapest analgesics available.
  • Nurofen tended to be cheaper in pharmacy, especially with bigger packs, though generic ibuprofen was cheapest in supermarkets.
  • Sinus medication tended to be cheaper in pharmacies, apart from Panadol Sinus at Aldi at a similar price to pharmacies; however the report highlights that pharmacies have “the option of potentially more effective treatments” with Sudafed containing pseudephedrine at a similar price to supermarket PE products.
  • Robitussin cough medicines were similarly priced in pharmacies and supermarkets, with the exception of the notably-cheaper Chemist Warehouse; the other cough, cold and flu products were more expensive in supermarkets.
  • Supermarket antihistamines can cost more than a dollar a day, the report found – whereas pharmacy packs, especially larger packs and generics, offer greater savings.
  • Mylanta and Quick-Eze were slightly cheaper in supermarkets, while Zantac 12 Hour Action was cheaper and larger pack sizes available; the report also noted the availability of Zantac Extra 24 Hour Action in pharmacies.
  • Imodium was slightly cheaper in pharmacy, especially in large pack sizes; some cheaper brands in pharmacies “were less than half the price of Imodium”.
  • Low-dose aspirin was available in 28-packs in supermarkets for around $3, and 84 for around $9; packs of 112 were around $3 in pharmacy.

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